In 1997, Masashi Kishimoto created the first published incarnation of the Naruto series. Debuting in Akamaru Jump, the Naruto one-shot would be Kishimoto's first incarnation of the Naruto universe. Though the plot of the one-shot bears little resemblance to the later shōnen manga, many of the same character and ninja themes would be displayed for the first time.
Naruto is a young demon fox that goes about life in the form of a young boy. Because his father attacked the ninja village, Mount Oinari, and caused a lot of death and destruction, the villagers are distrusting of him. To that end, he grew very resentful of their angry looks. The village chief, who was the sole survivor of nine powerful shinobi who were gathered to fight the elder fox, had taken pity on Naruto and allowed him to be raised in the village. While he was growing up, Naruto would learn several of the ninja techniques, including the Transformation Technique. Because Naruto constantly caused mischief, the village chief sent him to the city to befriend a human. The chief fears Naruto will become like his father so he hopes a friendship will put him on the right path.
After travelling to the city, Naruto stops at a ramen stand to get a bite to eat. While he's there, a drunken patron enters the stand. He is Kuroda, a washed-up artist who has been repairing a valuable painting titled Symbol. Before Kuroda passes out, another man enters the stand: Sergeant Matsushima, who is in charge of protecting the painting once Kuroda finishes his repairs. After Matsushima leaves, the owner of the stand gives Naruto a free bowl of ramen in exchange for Naruto taking the artist home. Naruto manages to bring the passed-out artist to his studio.
At the studio Naruto meets Kuroda's assistant, Takashi Takano. Takashi shows Naruto Symbol, and tells him it was painted by nationally known artist, Saburo, who was also Kuroda's best friend. Naruto notes the painting's strong smell and Takashi tells him it was made with a special paint. As Naruto gets near the painting, a uniformed police officer assigned to guard the painting enters and tells Naruto to back away. He then excuses himself stating he needs to use the restroom.
Soon, Kuroda awakes and, to thank Naruto for bringing him home, asks him to join him in a drink. Although Naruto initially protests that he is not old enough to drink, he caves in and begins to drink copiously with the artist. While inebriated, Naruto decides to show the men his transformation technique, a precursor of the Oiroke no Jutsu, in which Naruto transforms into an attractive young woman who only wears a bikini (while retaining a fox tail due to his skill level). As the two artists freak out at the strange occurrence before them, we see a man in the shadows outside putting a silencer on a gun.
Naruto tells Kuroda and Takashi about his "mission" from the Chief. Kuroda agrees with Naruto that his mission is foolish, telling him that one can only count on themselves before going to bed. Takashi then tells Naruto of the sad events of Kuroda's past. His best friend Saburo had stabbed Kuroda after Kuroda took over his job as the chairman of the cultural advancement committee. A remorseful Saburo then returned to his apartment and painted Symbol before taking his own life.
Takashi then states the painting depicts two tree limbs reaching out to intertwine, symbolically representing two hands shaking forming a new trust. Atop the intertwined branches is a bird's nest, showing the good that came from their meeting. Takashi then offers to be Naruto's first friend. Naruto is embarrassed as he has never shaken someone's hand before. However, he appears to have made his first friend. Takashi tells Naruto he can sleep in his bedroom as he watches over the painting.
While Naruto sleeps, a mysterious man enters the apartment and shoots Takashi in the head before placing the murder weapon into Naruto's bag. When Naruto wakes the next morning, Sergeant Matsushima is there with Kuroda. Matsushima accuses Naruto of murdering Takashi. Kuroda himself angrily yells at Naruto, asking if he murdered Takashi and stole the painting. Naruto denies this and Kuroda remembers when Naruto told him that no one ever trusts him. Feeling pity for the young boy, Kuroda tells Matsushima to take him in his place, allowing Naruto to find the real killer.
Naruto is released so he begins to travel around the city asking people about the painting. After having no luck for a week, Naruto stops in a park to ponder his luck, thinking maybe it would be better to just run away. He then overhears some young men describing one of their group, Hiroshi, who has gone to get drinks. They call him an outsider who only hangs around with them to look cool. Naruto likens this to his own lot in life before one of the young men denies this, saying that Hiroshi has always been a good friend who helps them out. He then tells the group to stop talking about him in that fashion or he won't forgive them. Hiroshi then arrives and brings his friends some cool drinks. After seeing the compassion displayed for their friend, Naruto cries, thinking of his own life. He then runs up to Hiroshi and yells that he is jealous of him and then runs off, leaving Hiroshi and his friends very confused.
Seeing that Kuroda believed in him, Naruto's faith is renewed so he begins to search again. He travels to the apartment of the officer who was on duty at the time the murder happened. Naruto enters the apartment and asks the man if he saw anyone suspicious that night. Naruto then says maybe the officer himself took the painting, to which the officer responds that that accusation is foolish before Naruto asks him why he smells so strongly of the painting. Naruto states he has a keen sense of smell and he noticed its foul odor when he first saw the painting. We see the officer reach for a knife and then cut to Matsushima's apartment.
The officer is there, telling the sergeant that he murdered Naruto when he came asking questions. As Matsushima turns, the reader sees Symbol in the background hanging on his wall. Matsushima says that is perfect, the public will then think Naruto took the painting and went into hiding. We then see a tail whip out from behind the officer, as it is Naruto in disguise. After the illusion ends, a panicked Matsushima attempts to shoot Naruto with his gun, but Naruto proclaims that he will get revenge for framing him, tricking Kuroda, and murdering Takashi. Naruto uses his demon fox technique to return to his natural nine-tails form. Using his tails, he captures Matsushima and the police arrive to arrest him. Matsushima denies he is guilty but the police tell him to give it up, as the other officer admitted to the crime.
Kuroda then approaches Naruto and thanks him for retrieving the painting. At Takashi's grave, Kuroda tells Naruto that he helped him gain the ability to believe in people again. Naruto thanks the artist in turn for believing in him. Naruto then asks Kuroda to shake his hand, but the artist thinks it is creepy. He caves anyway and the two become friends. He tells Naruto he would travel to the village with him but he is busy. Naruto says that's okay, as he'll try making more friends in the city. Kuroda then offers to buy Naruto a round of drinks for the road, to which Naruto retorts that if Kuroda's buying, he would rather have ramen instead. Naruto then thinks that maybe the chief was right; friends aren't so bad after all.